There was much talk when the government launched its ‘Community Payback’ scheme for minor offenders.
If you missed it, the plan was to make individuals sentenced to community service wear fluorescent ‘vests of shame’. Such clothing would identify them as a ne’er do well who should be tutted at disapprovingly at every opportunity.
Shoplifters would then feel so ashamed of their fluorescent bibs, they would mend their ways and not be tempted to stray into more serious misdeeds, such as flipping their mortgage.
Today the BBC reports on the results of a public poll that will decide what punishment the vested offenders will face. Disappointingly, the choices available to the public were fairly bland (things like having to remove graffiti, or pick up litter). There was no room for more merciless punishments (such as forcing offenders to watch BBC Parliament, or take up Morris Dancing).
Regardless, the nitpickers among you might argue that the scheme is nothing but a cynical sop to the tabloids which degrades society and will only incite further criminal offences.
I’m no criminologist, but I suspect an offender’s road to rehabilitation isn’t made any easier if they’re made to feel completely outcast from society.
But in a phrase that sends a shiver down my spine, the government insists that offenders must wear the vests to remain ‘sartorially within the law.’
Yikes! It's like being governed by Trinny and Susannah.